Sometimes the simplest childhood lessons can foster the most powerful rewards in our adult lives; if only we remember to apply them. As a kid, life was exponentially better with a best mate by your side. Yet, in your working life, it’s easy to get caught up in the concept of competition which sees many people—and companies—forging ahead alone.
While you can still achieve success this way, forming alliances with companies who share your vision, values and enthusiasm is one of the most powerful ways to boost your business. The best partnerships become symbiotic relationships, with each party bringing their unique set of strengths to create shared and elevated success.
To give you a real-world example, we chatted with Rick Foster and Mark Camilleri of Hare & Forbes. For the last decade or so, the 87-year-old Aussie company has been building a strategic partnership with Machines4U and so General Manager, Rick, and National Sales & Marketing Manager, Mark, have a brilliant insight into the challenges and benefits of co-operative business alliances.
The Machines4U and Hare & Forbes origin story
Hare & Forbes kicked off back in 1930 as a second-hand machinery dealer. The family owned company moved with the times, shifting from second-hand machines to a far more diversified offering. They’ve grown to be Australia’s leading supplier of engineering, metalworking and woodworking machinery, offering sales and service to these industries as well as automotive and sheet metal fabrication. They cater for everyone from sole traders right up to big industrial customers.
At just over ten years old, Machines4U is a much younger company. But the synergy created when an old and established company joins forces with a fresh new business has been powerful. Hare & Forbes was one of the first companies to come on board with Machines4U and so has been there for every bit of growth and change. Reminiscing on the last decade, Rick explained:
“It has evolved so much since the early days. Steve and Luke introduced us to the digital age of marketing and worked closely with us at the time to get our site up and running.” [Steve Krebs & Luke Bruce are the founders of Machines4u)
For an older company, such changes can be difficult to navigate, which is where a strategic partnership can be of great value.
Strategic partnerships create pre-qualified customers
In addition to easing the transition into the new age of digital marketing, Rick says Machines4u has been a staunch supporter over their decade-long relationship.
“For us, Machines4u has been a real growth area for our business. It’s a great place for customers to come and compare products. You can’t make a decision to buy without a comparison. The Machines4u platform gives customers the chance to do that. It’s a great site for that. Customers can go, have a look, make a decision, and then when they come in, they’re ready to buy.”
Such a system—which sees most of the buying process already done by the time the customer hits the store—was unheard of in the days before the web.
‘Set and forget’ lead generation
Sales and marketing guru, Mark, has been with Hare & Forbes for just over 20 years. He uploads every product sold online with Machines4u and, as of this moment, has over 4,500 ads live on the Machines4u site.
In the early days, Mark said he used to feed the ads in manually.
“One by one. Yeah it was a bit tedious! But now we have an automated system which is simple to use. We just select a category and that’s it.”
The API system that makes this level of automation possible was developed between the IT departments of Hare & Forbes and Machines4u. In Mark’s words,
“it was put smoothly into action. Login is easy and the administration portal is simple to use. I can log in at any time and access the data on any listing we have on the site.”
While the Hare & Forbes team were always happy with the leads they got through Machines4u, this quick and easy automated system gives them even greater value as it allows them to do minimal work for maximum output. As Rick explains,
“The leads we get from the Machines4u site are fantastic. The return on investment is very very good, we can’t beat the value for money.”
Mark was equally happy with the leads, but with his focus on admin and marketing, was almost more stoked with the data and ability to track everything.
“Machines4u has been tremendous for us. We get click throughs, we get callbacks and we get all the data to track how well we’re doing with them.”
The right way to handle branding
When entering into a symbiotic relationship with another business, it’s vital to be clear on how branding will be handled. There are many ways to go about this with some companies even opting for a co-branding approach.
However, for a brand as old, trusted and recognisable as Hare & Forbes, having their iconic branding given pride of place along with their machines is important. This was a perfect fit for the Machines4u platform which is focused on boosting the branding of its partner companies. This was one of Rick’s favourite aspects of the site.
“When a customer visits Machines4u, they get to see all your branding and contact info on the site. In fact, it’s right there in front of them. And we use the banner ad system on Machines4U to drive traffic to our website. Especially for calls to action and monthly specials. It really works and is a great vehicle for getting traffic to your site.”
The personal side of strategic partnerships
Every dealership that signs on with Machines4u gets an account manager. Face to face meetings are a part of the strategic relationship and Mark has found this immensely valuable over the last decade. The old ‘two minds are greater than one’ adage holds true.
“Our account manager looks after us and any time we’ve had a question or an issue, we’ve always been able to get in contact by phone or email.”
The face to face meetings with account manager, Dave, allow for troubleshooting but, more importantly, brainstorming to come up with effective strategies and new ideas to drive the business.
“When he comes in, we sit down and discuss how we can improve our products and exposure in the marketplace. We strategise and then work together on getting the new ideas up and running.”
The best strategic partnerships have no ‘final destination’
Machines4U is built on the concept of Kaizen, or continuous improvement. This means the company is always evolving and passing on the improvements to its clients and users. If both businesses in the partnership work this way, the benefits of joining forces will start compounding like a well researched financial investment.
By working with companies like Hare & Forbes, Machines4U grew into one of the most successful digital marketplaces in Australia. The website gives businesses access to affordable new and used machinery while simultaneously offering a platform for business across 26 different industries to sell and hire machinery.
In the spirit of continuous improvement and contribution to the strategic relationships formed with companies like Hare & Forbes, Machines4U launched a new model in 2017 that opened the marketplace up to everyone by making it completely free to place an ad on the site. This allows casual sellers and first-timers to try the marketplace for free to determine whether a membership would be of benefit to them.
Free users have access to a huge range of features and customer support; while serious sellers, dealers and OEMs have the ability to progress into a membership, which is where a strategic relationship can commence. The goal is to build as many strategic partnerships as possible and have them be as long lasting as the one enjoyed with Hare & Forbes. This creates a web of support to keep our industries flourishing, whatever the future may hold.